Mississippi is usually ranked #49 or 50 or 51 on any measure of poverty or funding for schools. Of course, its students have low scores because standardized tests accurately measure family income.

A state that refuses to fund its schools will have high poverty, a poorly educated citizenry and workforce, and a stagnant economy.

In 2015, educators and parents tried to pass a state referendum to force the Legislature to spend more, but a coalition of very wealthy people from inside and outside the state swamped the voters with propaganda and defeated the referendum. The Koch brothers debated a quarter million dollars (pocket change for them) to ensure that poor black and white children in Mississippi did not get enough funding to offer a decent education.

I recently posted Jeff Bryant’s Report on the pending state takeover of the public schools in Jackson, Mississippi. First, they underfund the schools, then they declare they are failing. And officials who can’t provide a decent education anywhere in the state plan to impose their will on the children of Jackson. You can be sure that their solution is charter schools, not more funding.

A teacher in Jackson wrote this comment after she read Jeff’s article.

Diane, you and I have corresponded several times over the years about the conditions in my school in Jackson. I regret to inform you that the conditions of the physical plant are now beyond words. When I was moved from a classroom with carpet that hadn’t been cleaned in years, a room where I fought respiratory and skin ailments for years, I found my new room infected with black mold. It took a few weeks and a trip to the doctor, but I got that mitigated to the point where I can deal with it.

Then over the Christmas holidays, the city of Jackson suffered a cold snap that destroyed the city water system. Jackson Public Schools had to close for a week due to the water crisis. When we resumed classes, our building’s pipes, I believe had also frozen, leading to a re-occurrence of a sewer line break that has literally rendered the main hall and its classrooms a s—hole. About fifteen years ago, the same situation had occurred when I was also on the main hall. Eventually the district dealt with the situation by going under the building to dig out the contaminated soil and re-plumbing the pipes.

I’ve told everyone who will listen, but the situation only got worse until they finally closed the restroom when the new poop was coming from. Even so, there is always a lingering odor of raw sewage which becomes unbearable after a rain and when the temperature warms up. When I was checking out of my room this week, the stench gagged me, and I swelled up with tears because the whole situation is just so surreal.

The facilities manager was in the building and I told him that I had been trying to decide whose office I needed to visit with a box of poop to put on the desk and ask “How would you like to smell this all day every day?” I told him that it would be his office. He assured me that they will address it this summer.

I also told this story to the principal who related that there is the intent to go back under the building, dig the dirt out again, and once more re-plumb the pipes. If it is effective, then it should hold out long enough to get me through to retirement.

Jackson Public Schools announced this week that they will issue a bond to put money into repairing aging buildings. Our building is one of the oldest in the city, with the distinctions of once having been the only high school in the state for African Americans. We’ll see if our building’s problems will be adequately addressed.

It is absolutely true that the power brokers in this state don’t want to pay for African American children to be educated. When Jackson Public Schools mainly educated the children of the power brokers, the schools were just fine. Now that those children are educated in the private and suburban schools, we see those schools excelling. Meanwhile, the students left in tax-poor JPS are languishing in second-world conditions.

My experience leads me to advocate for a new school funding mechanism that does not put schools at the mercy or benefit of their local tax base. Our country is clearly OK with relegating a third of our children to poverty and its consequences or we would have already done something about it.

(Thank you for letting me rant.)